Orange Coast’s current February pizza cover story does a great job—at least as far as I’m concerned, placing as it did my local boîte Pizza e Vino first in a distinguished list of 20—surveying and ordering Orange County pizza taxonomy. There is so much good local pizza info packed into this issue, it’s kind of ridiculous. Absolutely destined for the reference shelf. (It’s easy to purchase a digital copy, too.)
Perambulating the Great Park Farmers Market the other Sunday I happened across something relevant to this, not to mention relevant to my interests—a Mobile Pizza Unit, as I call it, a custom rig designed expressly for the purpose of bringing handcrafted, thin-crust, Neapolitan pizza cooked in an Italian-made wood-fired oven to the people, right where they live. Or in this case, where they shop, and where they might ride a giant orange hot-air balloon.
The rig belongs to TJ’s Woodfire Pizza, the entrepreneurial catering vision of Tim and Tina Gonzales, exceedingly youthful 30-somethings from Ladera Ranch. Tim is an insurance broker full time, and Tina, a former corporate office manager, cares for the couple’s 2-year-old and 4-1/2-month-old daughters, so like many young parents I guess they found themselves with a lot of extra time on their hands, wondering what to do with it.
Either that or they just really really really wanted to do this. I suspect the latter. As Tim says, “Cooking for people is more of a passion than work for me—especially pizza.” Gonzales is a graduate of Tony Gemignani’s International School of Pizza in San Francisco, the educational adjunct of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in the city, where he trained in several pizza styles but found himself gravitating toward the exacting, thin-crusted, wood-fired Neapolitan. (Signore Gemignani will be recognized by aficionados as the first American to win the Naples World Pizza Cup in 2007, among many other awards.)
It is kind of serendipitous that the January Sunday I found them happened to be their very first on the Great Park tarmac—possibly the complete absence of expectation enhanced the experience of finding a Mobile Pizza Unit turning out what was one of the very finest Pizza Margheritas ever.
Only maybe. Didn’t really need any sort of enhancing. Dough, made from imported Caputo 00 flour (00 indicates this classic pizza flour’s very finely milled texture), stretched to a credulity-challenging thinness. Sauce from San Marzano tomatoes had body and acid, the lack of one or the other or, usually, both, is an ongoing bugaboo for me with pizza sauce. Cheese? Whole-milk fresh mozz. Into the wood-fired oven for a startlingly short time, then fresh basil, properly torn, strewn—correctly—artlessly. It had char, chew, crispness—it was just what a person wants in her Neapolitan-style pizza.
Pizzas range from $8 to $12, so right in there in the usual range. A special addition I’ll be watching for is Hatch chilies from New Mexico; seems Tim was born in Albuquerque, his grandmothers ran New Mexican restaurants, and he has already introduced his NM and Neapolitan friends to one another.
A multi-culti pizza mashup like that I can get behind.
TJ’s Woodfire Pizza is available for private catering and parties, and will next be at the Great Park Farmers Market February 13 & 27. (TJWP also has a Facebook page.)